Judge Cannon Will Allow Third Parties To Argue In Trump's Defense At Hearing

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Tuesday said she would allow third parties to argue about the appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel in Donald Trump’s classified documents case.

The highly unusual decision means partisan representatives with no other involvement in the case will be allowed to attend a June 21 hearing and opine on Trump’s push to have Smith’s powers curtailed.

Cannon will hear from three such “friends of the court.” Two of them, Josh Blackman and Gene Schaerr, will argue in Trump’s favor; a third, Matthew Seligman, will argue for Smith’s continued work on the case.

Based on pre-hearing filings, Blackman, together with the Landmark Legal Foundation, will argue that special counsels lack the constitutional authority to actually prosecute a case.

In a countering motion, Seligman said Smith clearly wields that authority and blasted Blackman’s argument as being “at war with precedent and with reason.”

Legal experts say Cannon’s decision to consider Trump’s argument against Smith is questionable, and to permit so-called “friends of the court” who are otherwise unrelated to the criminal trial to weigh in for 30 minutes apiece is highly unusual.

“The fact these motions are even being entertained with a hearing is itself ridiculous,” national security legal expert Bradley Moss told CNN. “That third parties are being allowed to opine at the hearing is absurd.”

Cannon, a Trump appointee, last month indefinitely postponed Trump’s criminal trial. That decision baffled legal scholars, including Trump’s own former lawyers.

Ty Cobb, a former White House attorney under Donald Trump, called Cannon’s decision “inexplicable.”

“I think I once said to be fair to her she may merely be incompetent,” Cobb told CNN. “But no, this is a combination of bias and incompetence.”

He added: “She has not honored the public’s interest for one day in this case.”

Democratic lawmakers are also skeptical of the judge’s moves so far. “I think this judge is simply trying to postpone or delay the ultimate resolution,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told HuffPost Wednesday.

So many complaints have been filed against Cannon’s handling of the criminal case that a U.S. Court of Appeals judge last week allowed the court’s clerk to stop accepting them.

Trump faces 40 felony charges related to his retention of classified documents after he left office. The charges include willful retention of national defense information and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other counts.

A jury in New York last week convicted Trump of 34 felonies in an unrelated case, finding that he falsified business records to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with a porn actor shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Igor Bobic contributed to this report.